I’ve always thought I was lucky that my sober year began full of illness. Not wanting a drink or a cigarette certainly helped my sober quest, although missing out on Christmas parties because I was deaf and not being able to work for the first week at my new job was not ideal.
By the New Year, I was feeling better and had been sober for 5 weeks. It was then that the reality started kicking in. A year was an awfully long time.
If you’ve ever done Dry January, there’s a certain euphoria around day 29/30 when you can almost taste the wine on your lips. You think about it constantly, planning how to celebrate your enforced alcoholic fast, deciding what you’re going to drink when the restriction is lifted and discussing how great it’s going to feel when you take your first sip of Devil’s juice. Then get completely hammered.
Well, that euphoria still creeps in at the end of month 1 but you have no debauchery to look forward to. Instead, I rewarded myself in other ways, buying little gifts as I reached each milestone .. a ring, a necklace, a plane ticket .. I needed these things to look forward to, to make the journey worth it.
From the start, I found socialising hard. I had always been the ultimate party animal. Now I was the ultimate wallflower. My friends were wonderful, always making sure there was alcohol free alternatives for me to drink. But it was strange for them too. I was there. But I wasn’t there. Dawn the Drunken (crying) Devil had disappeared, leaving a sombre, Elderflower sipping Sober Fish in her place.
The sober me soon realised that the best time at a party was the beginning before the slurring began, rather than at the bitter end that I was used to, watching the sun come up & freaking out. I’ve never had so much sleep! There is a certain smugness to a regular 10pm bedtime .. in fact, I turn into a pumpkin shortly after! My sleep is so different. Solid, deep & restoring. There are no more lazy lie-ins .. I wake up early and snoozing is a thing of my drunken past.
In May, I set myself a challenge to walk 10000 steps a day. I’ve never really challenged myself to anything before. I mean, I could barely stick to a diet, let alone anything else. But Soberdom was going well so it was time to tackle the booty. And I loved it! And smashed it! And so my addiction to walking began.
It has totally taken me, and everyone who knows me, by surprise that I’m walking to the extent I am. I went through periods of exercising before but became despondent if I didn’t see quick results. This time, the results are clear.
Cut out alcohol = weight loss = more energy = expel energy by walking.
I now try to walk at least 5 miles a day and the weight is staying off. It’s a winning formula!
After tackling the alcohol & smoking then the weight then the exercise full on, it was time to tackle the brain. The emotional iceberg was thawing, leaving feelings of ‘what am I doing?’ and ‘where am I going?’ and ‘what do I want?’. So I started counselling & light mediatation & gong bathing, even hanging in a cocoon on one occasion! I am constantly surprising myself.
My words of wisdom to you.
Be patient. This has been a long but incredible year. Nothing happens overnight. You have spent years abusing your beautiful body and it will take time to recover. It will need sleep and exercise and nourishing. It will reward you but only when you are repetitively kind. Remember, it knows your habits better than anyone else.
Be brave. You can do this. If I can, you can too. I promise.
Make sacrifices. Your life will have to change. You will miss out on things. You will sleep when your friends continue to party. You will drink water while they drink champagne. But their reward is temporary & yours is permanent. Remember that.
Don’t give up. You may not succeed the first time but that’s ok. Keep trying. How many times have we all said ‘I’m never going to drink again’ but then crack on for another 10 years. In the words of Ice Cube ‘You can do it, you put your back into it’.
1) What are your biggest regrets in life to date
SF – I try to live a life without regrets .. everything happens for a reason, to teach a lesson. The only regret I do have is that I wish Sober Fish had hatched earlier but hey, I got there in the end!
2) What are your biggest fears now facing the future as a sober person/fish
SF – I guess I’ll always worry that I might get tempted back into drinking .. although the longer I stay sober, the easier it is not to be tempted.
3) What is your new 5 year plan now you have remained sober for a year, dreams plans aspirations?
SF – funnily enough, I was asked recently where I see myself in a year & I realised I’d never really looked too far ahead. Ideally, I’d like to be doing the blog & associated work full time, hopefully be in love & definitely sober. Oh, and have published a book 😁
4) What advice would you give to others setting out on the sober/quitting journey at the early craving stages from your own experience – what helped you?
SF – when I was younger & started dieting, I found the evenings hard, scratching around for food, so I used to go to bed early. I applied the same principle to drinking. If I was getting fidgety and thinking about drinking, I’d grab an early night. I would also read or listen to a podcast about other people’s stories .. or I’d write down how I was feeling.
5) In your opinion do we only need to help people with problematic drinking, or does the world need to be made aware of the dangers of Alcohol and the addictive nature of it.
SF – Alcohol is a poison. It is ruining lives. Heroin isn’t promoted so why is alcohol? I think there needs to be far more education about alcohol but doubt this will happen as there’s too much money in the industry. Instead, it will be up to people like us to spread the word.
6) Do you ever see a future where Sober Fish could moderate Alcohol consumption
SF – never. I can’t moderate anything.
7) What are the top 5 positive things that have changed this past year because of sobriety.
– losing weight
– stopped hating myself
– the blog & all the epic people I’ve met
– regained confidence & stopped bloody crying!
8) Have you suffered any anxiety as a result of stopping drinking
SF – yes but more about where I’m headed than anything else .. I was far more anxious when drinking
9) Do you feel you have missed out on any social occasions this last year because you stopped drinking.
SF – yes but social occasions are temporary. My sobriety is permanent.
10) Who has been your biggest inspiration to stay on track when the road has seemed dark long and bleak
SF – my lovely followers
11) Any advice for people who are flirting with the idea of going sober on how to make the commitment
SF – Just do it .. write a list of positives & negatives .. there will be no doubt it’s the right decision
12) What new things have you learned about Sober Fish now the fog has lifted?
SF – that I’m alright .. that I’m not as overemotional as I believed & was led to believe by others .. that I’m a better person sober .. that late nights are overrated .. that hangovers were a waste of my precious time on this planet .. that I am more of a morning person that I realised .. that I missed shit loads of sunrises whilst I was asleep .. that I can lose weight & keep it off ..
A couple of years ago, I ruined Christmas. It was truly horrific and an experience I never want to repeat.
Tradition had always been to meet up with friends on Christmas Eve, drink to excess from lunchtime & feel like crap on Christmas Day. Christmas Day usually began looking green, gagging over the Bucks Fizz & binge eating sausage rolls.
So, in an attempt to break tradition, I decided to stay in on Christmas Eve & stay sober. I was spending Christmas Day with friends & then Boxing Day with my family.
For the first time in a long time, I woke up hangover free on Christmas Day. It was a revelation! I was actually excited about the food & the wine & the presents & the palava!
The problem with me however, was that if I woke up sober on a special occasion, I was so proud & excited that I generally lost the plot.
The day had started well. My friends & I had made a pact that, as we were spending the following day with family, we’d take it easy. Yes, we’d have a couple of drinks but we’d get home by 8pm, we’d get a good nights sleep, we’d be fine.
We did so well. We got a taxi home by 8pm as planned. Well, my friend’s home. And then the infamous words were uttered ‘come in for a quick one?’.
Instead of telling the taxi driver to drive on, there was no hesitation in me jumping out the cab. What harm would a quick one do? It was only 8pm. I’d stayed in the previous night .. I would be home by 10pm, no harm done. Yeah right.
My friend had her Christmas stash of booze ready. We thought we’d be sensible (oh the irony) and stick to free pouring vodka rather than wine. That would be ‘better for us’ in the long run.
And that was that. I remember nothing. Still to this day I have no idea how long I was there & no one knows how I got home. All I do know is I woke up in my own bed, fully clothed, half an hour before I was getting collected to go to my parents and I was very very sick.
Rather than get dressed up nicely for the day ahead, I could barely have a shower. Bluntly, I was fucked. I literally couldn’t pull anything out of my pathetic empty bag.
When I got to my parents, everyone could see I was struggling. They opened a bottle of Champagne I’d received for my 40th. We’d saved it especially but I was sipping water. I tried to binge eat my way through the sausage rolls but they just made me sick again. We opened presents but all I really wanted to do was die.
I felt like a ticking time bomb. My mum had worked so hard to cook a lovely dinner and I knew that I needed to be in some kind of state to be able to eat it. But things weren’t looking good. I couldn’t keep down water, let alone a roast potato.
Tick tock tick tock
Inwardly, I was willing my body to sort itself out. Please body, just stop vomiting. Food will make you better. Please, come on, just one more time .. I can’t not eat.
But the pressure was too much. And my body was poisoned beyond belief. And dinner time came. And I couldn’t do it.
My mum’s disappointment was overwhelming. If I didn’t eat, she wouldn’t eat either. But my throat was closed and nothing would go in. She scraped my dinner from the expensive dinner plate into a cheap plastic box to take home for later. Christmas was ruined.
I understand people are worried about Christmas. How can you possibly survive without a Bucks Fizz or a glass (2 bottles) of red with dinner or a port or a shot? But my Christmas story is enough to put me off for life.
Stop focusing on what you think you’re missing out on and think about what you’re gaining. A clear head on Christmas morning & money in your pocket to spend on far nicer things than making yourself sick. Enjoy your Christmas dinner for once & stop dreading that you’ll have to do it all again tomorrow and the day after that and the day after that. Go for a long walk to burn off the excess Quality Street. Be present for your friends & family rather than a drunken corpse in the corner. If nothing else, give it a go! You never know, you might just like it 🎅🏼
A year ago tomorrow, I set off on my final drinking holiday ever. In one word, it (I) was carnage.
Of course, I didn’t know it was my last drinking holiday ever but it certainly contributed to my eventual abstinence of the poison ruining my life
The first part of the holiday was with 3 close girlfriends & started, as always, with a large glass of rose at the airport before 9am. Start as you mean to go on eh?! The thought now makes me shudder but at the time it was my own personal tradition & made me feel like the holiday had truly begun.
The hotel I stayed at in Majorca was a firm favourite. I’d been many times before as it’s selling points were that it was for adults only, served gin in a glass the size of a fishbowl & served Prosecco for breakfast. Not that I managed the Prosecco most mornings as was too hideously hungover, but the option was there nonetheless.
On day 2, I got totally into the ‘spirit’ of the holiday, ordering buckets of gin from the bar by the pool. My favourite gin was Hendricks, not a cheap option, and it was going down swimmingly. Too swimmingly in fact. I was proper drunk by late afternoon & handing over Euros like it was Monopoly money. In fact, that afternoon & evening, I handed over nearly all the money I’d exchanged in the U.K, approx 250 Euros, all on gin & a one lowly bowl of pasta, to line my stomach of course.
Unsurprisingly, the bowl of pasta didn’t stand a chance against the amount of gin I was knocking back & I was sick the next day. Proper sick to match my proper drunk. There’s nothing worse in the heat & I was conscious that I was wasting a day of my holiday in hangover hell. To combat the sickness, I drank fat coke & ate carbs & eventually it stopped. But it ruined a precious day, a day I had worked hard for, a day I would never get again.
But did I learn? No, of course I didn’t. A few days later I met my other friends & got way too overexcited. We mixed our drinks starting with homemade Pina Coladas & finished with, you’ve guessed it, gin.
The following day, I was hung over the toilet bowl (see what I did there) in the searing heat. The heat & dehydration were making me feel sicker but I couldn’t keep water down. I remember thinking I can’t keep doing this to myself & I don’t believe I drank gin ever again. My friends’ ingenious solution to making me better was to take me to nearby Magaluf & get me a McDonalds. It almost did the trick until we arrived at our destination beach for the day & I threw up again.
This year, I’ve decided not to return to Majorca, the scene of the crime. My holidays there have always been alcohol fuelled & as part of my transformation, I need to visit other places not associated with my past & do more than lie around a pool all day. I will miss it but I won’t miss the view of the bathroom or the wasted days feeling shocking.
I still think about this holiday, scarred by the hideous hangovers & the monster glasses of gin. Hopefully one day I can visit & change the memories into more happy, sober ones. One day.
A definition of a hangover – ‘A hangover is the experience of various unpleasant physiological and psychological effects following the consumption of ethanol. Hangovers can last for several hours or for more than 24 hours. Typical symptoms of a hangover may include headache, drowsiness, concentration problems, dry mouth, fatigue, gastrointestinal distress (e.g., vomiting), absence of hunger, depression, sweating, nausea and anxiety.’
My question is, after reading this, why would we intentionally do this to ourselves?! If you read these symptoms on a medicine, would you take it?!!
Isn’t it funny (or not), how we laugh about hangovers? After a good night out, the first thing we gauge the next day is the level of hangover. What type is it? Is it a wam bam, in your face, crippling one? Or is it a slow burner? Is it a headache? Or has it paralysed you on the bathroom floor? Can it be cured by a glass of water and an Alka Seltzer, or does it need serious medication like a Big Mac & fries? Will it completely ruin your day or just the majority of it?
Apparently, the most effective way to avoid a hangover is to ‘avoid alcohol or drinking in moderation’. No shit! I wish I’d been paid to write that!! How else would you get a hangover without it?!! But still we succumb.
Isn’t it quite sad that we deliberately sabotage our bodies to such an extent that we literally make ourselves ill? If you woke up with half the symptoms of a hangover on a Monday morning without drinking, you wouldn’t go to work for sure. You’d believe you were dying. Yet our culture determines that it is totally acceptable to make ourselves feel this way, week after week, at a severe cost to our health and our bank balance.
Isn’t it also strange that we never think of the long term effects that constant hangovers are doing to our bodies? Not only are we damaging our livers every time we drink (with the excuse that it can repair itself) but we are killing brain cells, destroying stomach lining and sucking the life out of our skin.
I don’t miss hangovers in the slightest. I get a buzz knowing I’m nurturing myself both inside and out, rather than self inflicting illness and pain. I’ve never felt or looked better. There is nothing more satisfying than waking up sober at the weekend and enjoying feeling good. Give it a go! Be kind to yourself, you deserve it.